The Gnostic Society Library


Notes for Von Harnack, History of Dogma

Adolf Von Harnack
History of Dogma,
Vol. I (pp. 266-286).
Translated by N. Buchanan.
Published by Boston, Little (1901).

Footnotes to Van Harnack's Text

1 He belonged to Pontus and was a rich shipowner: about 139 he came to Rome, already a Christian, and for a short time belonged to the church there. As he could not succeed in his attempt to reform it, he broke away from it about 144. He founded a church of his own and developed a very great activity. He spread his views by numerous journeys, and communities bearing his name very soon arose in every province of the Empire (Adamantius, de recta in deum fide, Origen, 9pp. ed. Delarue I. p. 809: Epiph. h. 42. p. 668. ed. Oehler). They were ecclesiastically organised (Tertull, de praescr. 41, and adv. Marc IV.5) and possessed bishops, presbyters. etc. (Euseb., H. E. IV. 15. 46: de Mart. Palaest. X. 2: Les Bas and Waddington, Inscript. Grecq. et Latines rec. en Graece et en Asie Mm. Vol. III. No. 2558). Justin (Apol. 1. 26) about 150 tells us that Marcion's preaching had spread "kata pan genos anthropon" and by the year 155, the Marcionites were already numerous in Rome (Iren. III. 34). Up to his death, however, Marcion did not give up the purpose of winning the whole of Christendom, and therefore again and again sought connection with it (Iren. I. c.; Tertull., de praescr. 30), likewise his disciples (see the conversation of Apelles with Rhodon in Euseb., H E. V. 13. 5, and the dialogue of the Marcionites with Adamantius). It is very probable that Marcion had fixed the ground features of his doctrine, and had laboured for its propagation, even before he came to Rome. In Rome the Syrian Gnostic Cerdo had a great intluence on him, so that we can even yet perceive, and clearly distinguish, the Gnostic element in the form of the Marcionite doctrine transmitted to us.

2 "Sufficit", said the Marcionites,"unicum opsus deo nostro, quod hominem liberavit summa et praecipua bonitate sua". (Tertull., adv. Marc. 1.17).

3 S Apelles, the disciple of Marcion, declared (Euseb., II. E. V.)"sothnsesthai tous epi tou estauromenon elpixotas, mono exa en ergois agathios euriskwntai".

4 This is an extremely important point. Marcion rejected all allegories. (See Tertull., adv. Marc. II. 19. 21. 22: 111. 5. 6. 14 19: IV. 15. 20: V. I; Orig., Comment. in Matth. T. XV. 3 Opp. III. p.655: in. ep. ad. Rom. Opp. IV. p.494 sq.: Adamant., Sect. I, Orig. Opp. I. pp. 808. 817; Ephr.Syrus., hymn. 36 Edit. Benedict, p.520 sq.) and describes this method as an arbitrary one. But that simply means that he perceived and avoided the transformation of the Gospel into Hellenic philosophy. No philosophic formulas are found in any of his statements that have been handed down to us. But what is still more important, none of his early opponents have attributed to Marcion a system, as they did to Basilides and Valentinus. There can be no doubt that Marcion did not set up any system (the Armenian, Esnik, first gives a Marcionite system, but that is a late production. see my essay in the Ztschr. f. wiss. Theol. 1896. p. 50 f.). He was just as far from having any apologetic or rationalistic interest. Justin (Apol. I. 58) says of the Marcionites ; " apodeizin undemian peri wn legousin exousin, alla alogws ws upo luxon arves sunhrpasmenoi ktl" . Tertullian again and again casts in the teeth of Marcion that he has adduced no proof. See I. ii sq.: III. 2.3.4: IV.11: "Subito Christus, subito et Johannes sic sunt omnia apud Marcionem, quae suum et plenum habent ordinem apud creatorem". Rhodon (Euseb., H.E. V.13.4) says of two prominent genuine disciples of Marcion: ~"un eurioxontes ths diaresin twn pragmatewn, ws oude ekeinos duo arxas apephenanto psilws kai anapodeiktws". Of Apelles, the most important of Marcion's disciples, who laid aside the Gnostic borrows of his master, we have the words (1.c.):un dein olws exetazein ton logon, all ekaston ws pepisteuxe, diamenein Ewthesesthai gar tous eti ton estarwmenon elpikontas apephaineto. nomon ean en ergois agathois de pws esti mia arxe. un ginwskein elegen, outw de kineisthai monon...un epistasthai tws eis estin agennetos theos, touto de pisteuein". It was Marcion's purpose therefore to give all value to faith alone, to make it dependent on its own convincing power, and avoid all philosophic paraphrase and argument. The contrast in which he placed the Christian blessing of salvation, has in principle nothing in common with the contract in which Greek philosophy viewed the summum bonum. Finally, it may be pointed out that Marcion introduced no new elements (Aeons, Matter, etc.) into his evangelic views, and leant on no Oriental religious science, The later Marcionite speculations about matter (see the account of Esnik) should not be charged upon the master himself, as is manifest from the second book of Tertullian against Marcion. The assumption that the creator of the world created it out of materia subjacens, is certainly found in Marcion (see Tertull., I.15; Hippol., Philos. X. 19); but he speculated no further about it, and that assumption itself was not rejected, for example, by Clem. Alex. (Strom. 11.16.74: Photius on Clement's Rypotyposes). Marcion did not really speculate even about the good God; yet see Tertull., adv. Marc. I. 14.15: IV. 7: "Mundus ille superior"-" coelum tertium".

5 Tertull., de praescr. 41. sq.; the delineation refers chiefly to the Marcionites (see Epiph. h. 42. c. 3.4, and Esnik's account), on the Church system of Marcion, see also Tertull., adv. Marc. I. 14,21, 23,24,28,29:111.1,22: IV. 5,34:V.7, 10,15,18.

6 Marcion himself originally belonged to the main body of the Church, as is expressly declared by Tertullian and Epiphanius, and attested by one of his own letters.

7 3 Tertull., adv. Marc. I. 2, 19: "Separatio legis et evangelil proprium et principale opus est Marcionis . . . ex diversitate sententiarum utriusque instrumenti diversitatem quoque argumentatur deorum". 11.28, 29: IV. 1.1.6:"dispares deos, alterum, judicem, ferum, bellipotentem ; alterum mitem, placidum et tantummodo bonum atque optimum." Iren. 1.27.2.

8 Marcion maintained that,the good God is not to be feared. Tertull., adv. Marc. 1.27: "Atque adeo pras se ferunt Marcionitas quod deum suum omnino non timeant. Malus autem, inquiunt, timebitur; bonus autem diligitur." To the question why they did not sin if they did not fear their God, the Marcionites answered in the words of Rom. VI. I 2. (1. C).

9 Tertull., adv. Marc. I. 2 :11. 5.

10 See the passage adduced, p. 266, note 2, and Tertull, I. 19: "Immo inquiunt Marcionitas, deus noster, etsi non ab initio, etsi non per conditionem, sed per semetipsum revelatus est in Christi Jesu". The very fact that different theological tendencies (schools) appeared within Marcionite Christianity and were mutually tolerant, proves that the Marcionite Church itself was not based on a formulated system of faith. Apelles expressly conceded different forms of doctrine in Christendom, on the basis of faith in the Crucified and a common holy ideal of life (see p.267).

11 Tertull., I, 13. "Narem contrahentes impudentissimi Marcionitas convertuntur ad destructionem operum creatoris. Nimirum, inquiunt, grande opus et dignum deo mundus"? The Marcionites (Iren., IV. 34. i) put the question to their ecclesiastical opponents, "Quid novi attulit dominus veniens?" and therewith caused them no small embarrassment.

12 On these see Tertull I. 19:11. 28. 29: IV. I, 4, 6: Epiph.; Hippol., Philos. VII. 30; the book was used by other Gnostics also (it is very probable that I Tim. VI. 20 an addition to the Epistle -refers to Marcion's Antitheses). Apelles, Marcion's disciple, composed a similar work under the title of "Syllogismi". Marcion's Antitheses, which may still in part be reconstructed from Tertullian, Epiphanius, Adamantius, Ephraem, etc., possessed canonical authority in the Marcionite church, and therefore took the place of the Old Testament. That is quite clear from Tertull., I. 19 (cf. IV. I): Separatio legis et Evangelii proprium et principale opus est Marcionis, nec poterunt negare discipuli ejus, quod in summo (suo) instrumento habent, quo denique initiantur et indurantur in hanc hasresim.

13 Tertullian has frequently pointed to the contradictions in the Marcionite conception of the god of creation. These contradictions, however, vanish as soon as we regard Marcion's god from the point of view that he is like his revelation in the Old Testament.

14 The creator of the world is indeed to Marcion "malignus", but not "malus".

15 Marcion touched on it when he taught that the "visibilia" belonged to the god of creation, but the "invisibilia" to the good God (I. i6). He adopted the consequences, inasmuch as he taught docetically about Christ, and only assumed a deliverance of the human soul.

16 See especially the third book of Tertull., adv. Marcion.

17 "Solius bonitatis","deus melior", were Marcion's standing expressions for him.

18 'Deus incognitus" was likewise a standing expression. They maintained against all attacks the religious position that, from the nature of the case, believers only can know God, and that this is quite sufficient (Tertull. I.11).

19 Marcion firmly emphasised this and appealed to passages in Paul; see Tertull., I. 11,19, 23: "scio dicturos, atquin hanc esse principalem et perfectam bonitatem, cum sine ullo debito familiaritatis in extraneos voluntaria et libera effunditur, secundum quam inimicos quoque nostros et hoc nomine jam extraneos deligere jubeamur". The Church Fathers therefore declared that Marcion's good God was a thief and a robber. See also Celsus, in Orig. VI. 53.

20 See Esnik's account, which, however, is to be used cautiously.

21 Marcion has strongly emphasised the respective passages in Luke's Gospel: see his Antitheses, and his comments on the Gospel, as presented by Tertullian (I. IV).

22 That can be plainly read in Esnik, and must have been thought by Marcion himself, as he followed Paul (see Tertull., I. V. and I.11). Apelles also emphasised the death upon the cross. Marcion's conception of the purchase can indeed no longer be ascertained in its details. But see Adamant., de recta in deum fide, sect. I. It is one of his theoretic contradictions that the good God who is exalted above righteousness should yet purchase men.

23 Tertull. 1.6: "Marcion non negat creatorem deum esse.

24 Here Tertull., I. 27, 28, is of special importance; see also 11.28: IV.29 (on Luke XII. 41-46): IV. 30. Marcion's idea was this. The good God does not judge or punish; but He judges in so far as he keeps evil at a distance from Him: it remains foreign to Him. "Marcionitas interrogati quid fiet peccatori cuique die jib? respondent abici ilium quasi ah oculis". "Tranquilitas est et mansuetudinis segregare solummodo et partem ejus cum infidelibus ponere". But what is the end of him who is thus rejected? "Ab igne, inquiunt, creatoris deprehendetur". We might think with Tertullian that the creator of the world would receive sinners with joy: but this is the god of the law who punishes sinners. The issue is twofold: the heaven of the good God, and the hell of the creator of the world. Either Marcion assumed with Paul that no one can keep the law, or he was silent about the end of the "righteous" because he had no interest in it. At any rate, the teaching of Marcion closes with an outlook in which the creator of the world can no longer be regarded as an independent god. Marcion's disciples (see Esnik) here developed a consistent theory: the creator of the world violated his own law by killing the righteous Christ, and was therefore deprived of all his power by Christ.

25 Schools soon arose in the Marcionite church, just as they did later on in the main body of Christendom see Rhodon in Eusel) ,II. E. V '3.2-4). The different doctrines of principles which were here developed (two, three, four principles; the Marcionite Marcus's doctrine of two principles in which the creator of the world is an evil being, diverges furthest from the Master), explain the different accounts of the Church Fathers about Marcion's teaching. The only one of the disciples who really seceded from the Master, was Apelles (Tertull., de praescr. 30). His teaching is therefore the more important, as it shews that it was possible to retain the fundamental ideas of Marcion without embracing dualism. The attitude of Apelles to the Old Testament is that of Marcion, in so far as he rejects the book. But perhaps he somewhat modified the strictness of the Master. On the other hand, he certainly designated much in it as untrue and fabulous. It is remarkable that we meet with a highly honoured prophetess in the environment of Apelles: in Marcion's church we hear nothing of such, nay, it is extremely important as regards Marcion, that he has never appealed to the Spirit and to prophets. The "sanctiores feminas" Tertull. V.8, are not of this nature, nor can we appeal even to V.15. Moreover, it is hardly likely that Jerome ad Eph. III. 5, refers to Marcionites. In this complete disregard of early Christian prophecy, and in his exclusive reliance on literary documents, we see in Marcion a process of despiritualising, that is, a form of secularisation peculiar to himself. Marcion no longer possessed the early Christian enthusiasm as, for example, Hermas did.

26 Marcion was fond of calling Christ "Spiritus salutaris". From the treatise of Tertullian we can prove both that Marcion distinguished Christ from God, and that he made no distinction (see, for example, I. 11, 14: II.27: 111. 8, 9, 11: IV 7). Here again Marcion did not think theologically. What he regarded as specially important was that God has revealed himself in Christ, "per semetipsum" Later Marcionites expressly taught Patripassianism, and have on that account been often grouped with the Sabellians. But other Christologies also arose in Marcion's church, which is again a proof that it was not dependent on scholastic teaching, and therefore could take part in the later development of doctrines.

27 See the beginning of the Marcionite Gospel.

28 Tertullian informs us sufficiently about this. The body of Christ was regarded by Marcion merely as an "umbra", a "phantasma" His discipies adhered to this, but Apelles first constructed a "doctrine" of the body of Christ.

29 The strict asceticism of Marcion and the Marcionites is reluctantly acknowledged by the Church Fathers; see Tertull., de praescr. 30:" Sanctiss imus magister"; I. 28, "carni imponit sanctitem". The strict prohibition of marriage: I. 29: IV. II, 17, 29, 34, 38: V. 7, 8, 15, 18; prohibition of food: I. 14 cynical life: Hippol., Philos. VII. 29; numerous martyrs: Euseb, H. E. V. 16. 21, and frequently elsewhere. Marcion named his adherents (Tertull. IV. 9 36)"suntalaipwroi kai summisoumenoi". It is questionable whether Marcion himself allowed the repetition of baptism; it arose in his church. But this repetition is a proof that the prevailing conception of baptism was not sufficient for a vigorous religious temper.

30 Tertull. 1.20. "Aiunt, Marcionem non tam innovasse regulam separatione leg is et evangelii quam retro adulteratam recurasse"; See the account of Epiphanius, taken from Hippolytus, about the appearance of Marcion in Rome (h. 42. I. 2).

31 Here again we must remember that Marcion appealed neither to a secret tradition, nor to the "Spirit", in order to appreciate the epochmaking nature of his undertaking.

32 In his estimate of the twelve Apostles Marcion took as his stand-point Gal. II. See Tertull. I. 20: IV. 3 (generally IV. i-6). V. 3; de praescr. 22.23. He endeavoured to prove from this chapter that from a misunderstanding of the words of Christ, the twelve Apostles had proclaimed a different Gospel than that of Paul; they had wrongly taken the Father of Jesus Christ for the god of creation. It is not quite clear how Marcion conceived the inward condition of the Apostles during the lifetime of Jesus (See Tertull. III. 22: IV. 3. 39). He assumed that they were persecuted by the Jews as the preachers of a new God. It is probable, therefore, that he thought of a gradual obscuring of the preaching of Jesus in the case of the primitive Apostles. They fell back into Judaism; see Iren. III. 2.2. "Apostolos admiscuisse ea quae sunt legalia salvatoris verbis"; 111.12.12: "Apostoli quas sunt judaeorum sentientes scripserunt" etc.; Tertull V.3: "Apostolos vultis Judaismi magis adfines subintelligi." The expositions of Marcion in Tertull. IV. 9, 11,13,21,24,39: V.13 shew that he regarded the primitive Apostles as out and out real Apostles of Christ.

33 The call of Paul was viewed by Marcion as a manifestation of Christ, of equal value with His first appearance and ministry; see the account of Esnik. "Then for the second time Jesus came down to the lord of the creatures in the form of his Godhead, and entered into judgment with him on account of his death.... And Jesus said to him: 'Judgment is between me and thee, let no one be judge but thine own laws.... hast thou not written in this thy law, that he who killeth shall die?' And he answered, 'I have so written' . . . Jesus said to him, 'Deliver thyself therefore into my hands'... The creator of the world said, 'Because I have slain thee I give thee a compensation; all those who shall believe on thee, that thou mayest do with them what thou pleasest.' Then Jesus left him and carried away Paul, and shewed him the price, and sent him to preach that we are bought with this price, and that all who believe in Jesus are sold by this just god to the good one." This is a most instructive account; for it shews that in the Marcionite schools the Pauline doctrine of reconciliation was transformed into a drama, and placed between the death of Christ and the call of Paul, and that the Pauline Gospel was based, not directly on the death of Christ upon the cross, but on a theory of it converted into history. On Paul as the one apostle of the truth; see Tertull. 1 20:111. 5, 14 : IV. 2 sq.: IV. 34: V. I. As to a Marcionite theory that the promise to send the Spirit was fulfilled in the mission of Paul, an indication of the want of enthusiasm among the Marcionites, see the following page, note 2.

34 Marcion must have spoken ex professo in his Antitheses about the Judaistic corruptions of Paul's Epistles and the Gospel. lIe must also have known Evangelic writings bearing the names of the original Apostles, and have expressed himself about them (Tertull. IV. 1-6).

35 Marcion's self-consciousness of being a reformer, and the recognition of this in his church is still not understood, although his undertaking itself and the facts speak loud enough. (I) The great Marcionite church called itself after Marcion (Adamant., de recta in deum fide. 1.809 ; Epiph. h.42, p. 668, ed. Oehler:"Markion sou onoma epikeklentai oi upo tou epatemenoi ws seauton keruxantos kai ouxi kriston". We possess a Marcionite inscription which begins:"sunagwge Markiwnistwn". As the Marcionites did not form a school, but a church, it is of the greatest value for shewing the estimate of the master in this church, that its members called themselves by his name. (2) The Antitheses of Marcion had a place in the Marcionite canon (see above, p 270). This canon therefore embraced a book of Christ, Epistles of Paul, and a book of Marcion, and for that reason the Antitheses were always circulated with the canon of Marcion. (3) Origen (in Luc. hom. 25. T. III. p 962) reports as follows: "Denique in tantam quidam dilectionis audaciam proruperunt, ut nova quasdam et inaudita super Paulo monstra confingerent. Alli enim aiunt, hoc quod scriptum est, sedere a dextris salvatoris et sinistris, de Paulo et de Marcione dici, quod Paulus sedet a dextris, Marcion sedet a sinistris. Porro ahi legentes: Mittam vobis advocatum Spiritum veritatis, nolunt intelligere tertiam personam a patre et fiho, sed Apostolum Paulum." The estimate of Marcion which appears here is exceedingly instructive. (4) An Arabian writer, who, it is true, belongs to a later period, reports that Marcionites called their founder "Apostolorum principem." (5) Justin, the first opponent of Marcion, classed him with Simon Magus and Menander, that is, with demonic founders of religion. These testimonies may suffice.

36 On Marcion's Gospel see the Introductions to the New Testament and Zahn's Kanonsgeschichte, Bd. I., p.585 if. and II., p.409. Marcion attached no name to his Gospel, which, according to his own testimony, he produced from the third one of our Canon ~Tertull, adv. Marc. IV. 2. 3. 4). He called it simply Euaggelion (kuriou), but held that it was the Gospel which Paul had in his mind when he spoke of his Gospel. The later Marcionites ascribed the authorship of the Gospel partly to Paul, partly to Christ himself, and made further changes in it. That Marcion chose the Gospel called after Luke should be regarded as a makeshift; for this Gospel, which is undoubtedly the most Hellenistic of the four Canonical Gospels, and therefore comes nearest to the Catholic conception of Christianity, accommodated itself in its traditional form but little better than the other three to Marcionite Christianity. Whether Marcion took it for a basis because in his time it had already been connected with Paul (or really had a connection with Paul), or whether the numerous narratives about Jesus as the Saviour of sinners, led him to recognise in this Gospel alone a genuine kernel, we do not know.

37 The associations of the Encratites and the community founded by Apelles stood between the main body of Christendom and the Marcionite church. The description or Celsus (especially V. 6i - 64 in Orig.) shews the motley appearance which Christendom presented soon after the middle of the second century lie there mentions the Marcionites, and a little before (V. 59), the "great Church." It is very important that Celsus makes the main distinction consist in this, that some regarded their God as identical with the God of the Jews, whilst others again declared that "theirs was a different Deity who is hostile to that of the Jews, and that it was he who had sent the Son." (V.61).

38 One might be tempted to comprise the character of Marcion's religion in the words, "The God who dwells in my breast can profoundly' excite my inmost being. He who is throned above all my powers can move nothing outwardly." But Marcion had the firm assurance that God has done something much greater than move the world: he has redeemed men from the world, and given them the assurance of this redemption, in the midst of all oppression and enmity which do not cease.